September 29, 2015

Do you saw logs at night?

     Do you snore?
     Go ask someone who really knows. 
     Many snorers are in denial about their sawing pulpwood at night.  I know.  I was.  If someone asked me whether I snored, I’d retort: “Who, me?  Of course not.”  My family knew better.  Maybe that’s why they gave me one of those we-care-about-you gifts for my 60th birthday. At first, I was leery.  Now, almost seven years later, I am grateful for their insistence and thoughtfulness.
     “You want me to do what?  Go where?”  I argued. “Why Minnesota when there’s a Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville?”  I was destined for Rochester—up in cold country—like it or not.  Our younger son, Eric, piped up, “And I’ll go with you.”  I told him that I could manage alone.  That’s when he laughed and said, “But you know, Dad, the world headquarters of Cabela’s is only about 40 miles away from Mayo’s mothership.”
     An internist, a Hillary Clinton look-alike, got to know me well, snapping on latex gloves to lead my three-day physical exam.  While she explored places that I wished she hadn’t, Eric was exploring acres of outdoor gear.  Hunting, fishing, hiking, camping or whatever, Cabela’s has it.
     “Doc Clinton” and her associates discovered several things.  I was younger—health-wise—than my birth certificate indicated.  They found a .20-gauge birdshot pellet lodged between two of my ribs.  I had forgotten about that 1964 hunting accident with Pete Hires and Randall Bramblett.  But most of all they advised, “You probably have sleep apnea.  You need to be tested.”
     Sleep apnea can lead to serious issues. Mayo’s warning included possible side effects such as stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack, chronic sleepiness, morning headaches, and, yep, snoring.  They explained snoring is a probable signal for “obstructive sleep apnea.” Your body and brain need the right amount of oxygen.  If airflow is blocked to your lungs—while sleeping—bad things happen.
     Back in Georgia, technicians attached an assortment of wires to me and instructed, “Sleep,” while they observed. Doc Clinton was right.  If I wanted to live to be a sure-enough old man, I had to address my sleep disorder.  A customary corrective device is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.  My doctor prescribed one.

     I have friends who praise their CPAPs, and I’m proud for them.  This Darth Vader-like contraption did get the right amount of oxygen into my system.  But it was, in a word—maddening.  The gadget was noisy, like running a vacuum cleaner in reverse and blowing air up your nose through a mask that is hooked to a hose.  The mask and straps were uncomfortable, and I had to haul that thing when I traveled.   Surely there had to be a better solution.
     Six years ago, a small item in the morning newspaper hinted I might be saved from my CPAP madness.  Enter Dr. Robert Ward, a board-certified orthodontist who specializes in sleep medicine.  He introduced me to the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP), a two-part oral appliance that you wear while snoozing.  The upper and lower mouthpieces fit into a small plastic case that I can stuff into my pocket.  The first week took some adjustment—figuring out where to park my tongue.  That was 2,190 snore-less nights ago.  
     Sleep apnea and snoring are serious matters. I’m no medical expert, but I do advise you to talk with your doctor and visit this website: TAPINTOSLEEP.COM.    I don’t go anywhere overnight—like right now—without my little blue box.  I’m on the road.  It’s almost midnight, and I hear my pillow and TAP calling.
     Good night, y’all.